Tales of the traveller – I’ve seen the light!

You arrive in an airport hotel tired and cranky. It’s night and sleep beckons but you know it won’t come easily because you have dozed off intermittently for the previous half-day as the jet you were aboard covered a quarter of the globe’s circumference. Eventually, though, you read yourself to sleep and your irritations slip into your subconscious. Your body starts to relax properly as muscles unwind from the discomfort of being strapped into a seat that felt more like a cage for a battery hen.

But bliss is to be denied. During the night some other poor bastard cooped-up in the padded cell next door goes to the toilet and the flushing of the cistern bursts into your brain like the opening of dam gates just behind your head. You immediately want to do unspeakable things to the architect responsible for this shoddy state of affairs. Just as you’re imagining that red-hot poker entering his nether regions (it had to be a guy – a woman wouldn’t be so inadequate as to design anything this pathetic) you realise you should also make life just as uncomfortable for the bastard builders of this sham of a hotel who clearly skimped on the specifications because what building code could possibly permit walls to be fashioned from tissue paper? Anyway . . . your neighbour’s call of nature has reinforced the universality of man – your own body hears the call of a mate and signals that you, too, must seek relief.

You stagger to the bathroom and then commence a five-minute battle to find the bloody light switch. You run your hands across every surface within reach as your frustration heightens the desire of your bladder to relieve itself. You are now caressing walls with more diligence than the last person you made love to. In direct proportion to your inability to find light for guidance, your wee-wee valve is telling you that Situation Critical is at hand. Eventually you pause and consider the problem logically.

If, having caressed ten square metres of bathroom wall and not found a switch, perhaps they do things differently here? Then a light bulb goes off! Sadly it’s still only in your mind and darkness continues to envelop you but at least now you have an idea. Switching your groping to the exterior wall, you find that people here put their switches on the outside of the room. You mutter curses and imprecations at their stupidity until you realise with a sly sense of shame that maybe it’s your compatriots at home that do things strangely. Maybe it’s the people in this part of the word that are actually normal? But then you realise you’ve still got three hours before catching your next flight and another several hours of insufferable flight time before you get home and you know you just don’t give a damn.